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College of Pharmacy

  • Michaela Almgren with students

A Unique Opportunity: Partnership opens doors to cutting-edge technology

Posted on: February 3, 2020

Students from the UofSC College of Pharmacy and the College of Engineering and Computing continue to learn about robotic-assisted aseptic compounding.

As a result of a unique partnership between the College of Pharmacy and Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation based in West Columbia, Michaela Almgren splits her time between the College of Pharmacy as clinical assistant professor and Nephron as the internship director. We asked Almgren to share her thoughts about the program.

Q: What is the significance of what these students are doing?

Almgren: It is such a great opportunity for students. The knowledge and skills of our students are being challenged by making process improvements at Nephron. This builds students’ confidence as they see their work truly making a difference.

When working on our Yaskawa project, our pharmacy student team applied their understanding of sterile compounding concepts to make sure that when the engineering students programmed the robot, all considerations for maintaining sterility and proper aseptic technique rules were followed. Our students are also learning about quality requirements that have to be met by pharmaceutical industry manufacturers and how that translates to patient safety.

The next steps in this project will include learning about validation of pharmaceutical systems, writing protocols for validation and the implementation of the Yaskawa robotic arm in the clean room environment. The students are gaining skills that are making them more marketable for the real world, whether they want to work for a drug manufacturing company, in a clinical setting or perhaps go and start their own business.

Q: Where do students learn how to program these robotic aseptic compounding robots and prepare them for working in a clean room environment?

Almgren: Thanks to the generosity of Nephron, there is a Yaskawa robot housed at the South Carolina Research Authority in the McNair building near campus. That space is like a learning lab where our pharmacy and engineering students are currently collaborating on this project to make sure the robot is ready to execute all tasks as expected before it is implemented on-site in the clean rooms at Nephron.

Students program the robotic arm to perform desired activities, and then put it into practice in a simulated environment. All students are using this cutting edge technology, which is a truly unique opportunity.

Q: How does the experience of learning and working side-by-side with engineering students add value for the pharmacy students?

Almgren: Working with engineering students is also a great exercise in collaboration and communication, as all students have to work together, share information effectively and collaborate on this project in this highly diverse team. The engineering students have different training, background and skill sets than the pharmacy students.

I believe this helps our pharmacy students to sharpen their interpersonal skills that they can then apply in a clinical setting, communicating with patients as well as other healthcare professionals, all of whom can have very different educational levels and backgrounds.


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